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$21 million spent to date on Bear Creek
County Attorney Tommy Craig breaks down Bear Creek expenditure since 1998
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Newton County has spent approximately $21.6 million dollars on the proposed Bear Creek Reservoir since 1998, with the bulk of those funds going towards land acquisition, County Attorney Tommy Craig revealed Tuesday during a Newton County Board of Commissioners meeting.

The report prepared by Craig's office came in response to questions raised during a working session on Bear Creek two weeks ago. Commissioner Nancy Schulz commended Craig and the board Tuesday for "making progress" towards greater transparency.

According to the report, a total of $17,439,083.39 was spent on land acquisition, including appraisals, surveys and mapping, title insurance and condemnation costs. Another $1,299,971.80 went towards engineering and environmental consulting, and $1,146,234.82 for legal fees. Miscellaneous and bond costs accounted for the remaining sums for a grant total of $21,682,176.49.

Craig also gave commissioners a copy of a draft Master Water Plan compiled by Krebs Engineering for $240,000 and briefed the board on the next step in the Bear Creek project, a safe yield analysis for Lake Varner, which was met with some criticism.

Craig recommended Schnabel Engineering, which was awarded a contract to engineer the dam in 2012, to carry out a three-month, $22,000 safe yield analysis to determine how much water Lake Varner could provide during another peak drought similar to the current drought of record in 2007-2009. The $22,000 does not include the estimated $64,000 cost of conducting aerial and sonar surveys of Lake Varner to determine capacity. The board tabled the issue for further discussion.

Local resident Wesley Dowdy used the citizen comments period to register his skepticism of safe yield analysis, questioning why it was not included in the work completed by Krebs Engineering for the Master Water Plan, and calling on commissioners to hold an open bid for the new contract.

Other business concluded during the meeting included the approval of the purchase of plow and sanding equipment in anticipation of severe snowstorms, and the denial of a request to rezone a residential plot on Flat Shoals Road for commercial use.

For more on this story see Sunday's The Covington News.